Secret police network scheme of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania

Item

Title

Secret police network scheme of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania

Description

This network scheme comes from a documentary file on Jehovah’s Witnesses in the former administrative region of Cluj. Titled as “Organisation Scheme of the organisation “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Cluj Region, it shows the structure of the group with names, ranks and connections of each of the functionaries (indicated by circles). The blue box at the top stands for the national leaders, while the rectangular boxes at the bottom represent the six territorial units in the region with the number of their subunits and members. The scheme also informs the viewer of the progress the authorities had made in their measures against the group: arrested “elements” are indicated with red, while those still free are coloured with blue.
The scheme is an attachment to an interim report written in 1955 and visualises the results of an ongoing "informative–operative" operation conducted by the Securitate’s Cluj regional directorate. The operation started in 1953, two years after the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cluj region (35 people) were arrested and convicted. The aim of the operation was to identify the new leaders and functionaries of the reorganised regional units, to map their connections within and beyond the regional structure, and to gather information about their activities and whereabouts. To further this goal, the Securitate employed several informants to work on the group and relied on information gathered during interrogations of members arrested during the operation (in 1951 or after 1953).
As the scheme aims to show, Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organisation had a hierarchical structure. The basic units were the local congregation, each having its leader called servant (this emic term was used for all leaders, and as the scheme shows, it was also adopted by the Securitate). On a territorial basis congregations formed circuits (there were 6 of them in the Cluj region with altogether 146 congregations) with circuit servants responsible for coordinating the work of congregations, supplying them with religious materials and acting as mediators between them and the regional servant. The regional servant in turn was responsible for coordinating the work of circuit leaders: he collected reports, money or other types of donations, distributed teaching materials and mediated between the circuits and the national leaders. His work was helped by evangelisers called pioneers who took an active part in proselytising and organising new congregations; they were mainly young, unmarried and devoted men already living illegally for having refused military service. Communication between the levels was carried out with the help of couriers who transported messages, reports, reading materials and donations. Interaction within the group was highly secretive: most servants and pioneers used cover names even with other group members, all reports were coded and couriers met with the leaders in crowded public places and used prearranged signs to get in touch with one another. Authorities found the highly organised structure of the group and the discretion with which they carried out their interactions suspicious and considered this evidence of the group’s conspiratorial nature.
Before 1990, apart from two short periods between 1933–1937 and 1945–1949, Jehovah’s Witnesses did not enjoy a legal status in Romania. They suffered intense persecution at the hands of inter-war democratic governments and the wartime and post-war totalitarian regimes. The main reasons given by the authorities for their harassment were their proselytising activity, the lack of transparency in their organisation, their refusal to perform military service or to participate in elections and other civic duties, their ties to their American headquarters, and their heralding of the end of the regime and the onset of a theocratic kingdom. Throughout the communist period, Jehovah’s Witnesses were closely surveilled by the Securitate with many being imprisoned or sent to labour camps. In spite of the repressive environment, however, their number grew from 15000 in 1949 to 35000 in 1990.

These images come from file CNSAS D 014428. Beside the network scheme it contains a 17-page report and several crime scene or evidence photographs of various hidden materials (a typewriter, a loudspeaker fake IDs, religious brochures, coded reports).

For further readings on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Romanian state see:
Pintilescu, Corneliu – Fătu-Tutoveanu, Andrada, 2011, Jehova’s Witnesses in Post-communist Romania:
the Relationship Between the Religious Minority and the State (1989-2010). Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 10, issue 30 (Winter): 102–126.

For related entries see:

Subject

Communism and Christianity--Europe, Eastern
Communism--Europe--History--20th century
Communism--Europe, Eastern
Communism--Europe, Eastern--History--20th century
Secret police (secret service)
Surveillance
Totalitarianism
Material culture--Religious aspects
Religious groups
Religious sects
Communism--Romania--History--20th century
Millenialism
Romania. Securitatea

Creator

Agnes Hesz

Source

Consiliul Național pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securității
CNSAS D 014428
http://www.cnsas.ro

Publisher

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No. 677355

Date

1955

Rights

copyright for these images belongs to CNSAS
http://www.cnsas.ro

Format

jpg

Language

Ro

Type

image

Identifier

CNSAS D 014428
http://www.cnsas.ro

Coverage

20th century
Romania

Bibliographic Citation

Agnes Hesz, "Secret police network scheme of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Romania,"

Date Created

2019